What's your opinion about B&W Papers?

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This is my first posting here, although I've been following things for a while. I want to say what a great idea this forum is and to say that as result of reading comments posted here, I recently purchased a Wisner 4x5 Traditional instead of the Zone VI that I had been contemplating originally. Anyway, on to my question:

After a hiatus of many years, I am returning to LF work and am somewhat lost as to "the best" paper for fine B&W prints. I would prefer to work with graded papers rather than VC because I have never been able to get consistent results with them using my cold light head. It appears to me that there are very few high quality fibre based papers out there and I'd be curious to know what people think of them. I have used Brilliant and quite like it, but availability is a bit tough, since I could only get it by mail from Calumet. I'd prefer something that I could walk into my local store and purchase off the shelf. However, if the consensus is that "Brilliant is the best" then I'd think about biting the mail order bullet.

I realize that asking "what's the best paper" is sort of like asking what your favourite colour is, but I'll take a chance and hope that you all don't find the question too stupid. At least you'll help me narrow down the field for some personal tests I can run.

-- Bruce Pollock (Bruce_Pollock@bc.sympatico.ca), February 01, 1999


While I have to agree there is no 'best' paper, there are some that seem to get used by fine printers more than others. Take a good look at the Forte cold and warm tone papers. I use the Polygrade V fibre and it looks nice for my work. I still like Agfa fibre and Ilford isn't bad at all.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), February 01, 1999.

I guess my favorite depends on [1st] the subject matter, [2] the use, [3] my mood at the moment. And sometimes, the order of priority changes! I loves Brilliant when Fred frist brought it out. I was wonderfully heavy, and therefore hard to damage. The surface, and extremes of white and black were super. Fred had to change suppliers, and it's ture that only the weight changed, but I went back to Seagull. Of course Fred sold out to Calumet, and Seagull [Oriental] wasn't imported for several years, although Free-Style in CA has just started importing it again. Well, I bought a couple of Picker's VC enlarger heads [which are used daily and I love!!!] and went back to the Yellow Father from Rochester, with their PolyMax Fine Art. Much to my surprise and pleasure, PolyMax really does make beautiful prints! So, at least for now, that's where I am. Of course if Agfa were making a _consistent_ Portriga Rapid, I might still be in my "warm period". Dick Fish Smith College it again] Seagull

-- Dick Fish (dfish@javanet.com), February 01, 1999.

I personally use graded papers too and so far Ilford's Ilfospeed RC works just fine for proofs and standard enlargements. As far as high-quality FB paper I think you will find a very wide selection at Freestyle Photo. (www.freestylesalesco.com) For a truly wide selection mail-order is the way to go! I just received my catalog today and was very impressed with what they carry. (prices are very reasonable) As far as I know they are the only company that carries Oriental papers. Though I have never used it myself, Oriental G is supposed to be a wonderful FB graded cold-tone paper. Ilford Galerie is another oustanding paper and even Luminos Classic. (though it doesn't tone too well in selenium) Oh, and Cachet papers are supposed to be very nice too! There is an enourmous amount of papers out there and most of them are top quality so it really just comes down to a matter of personal taste.

-- Brian Jefferis (jefferis@erols.com), February 01, 1999.

My current preference in fiber base, for fine art work is Zone VI Brilliant II, in either graded or VC. It's (for my money) the most neutral paper with the longest scale, richest blacks AND cleanest whites currently on the market. I develop in Dektol wth a BB compound restrainer (sometimes two part Beers formula)and either gold tone or selenium tone. My main gripe with Kodak papers is (in comparison) the whites have a yellowish cast..although the papers are excellent. Ilford Gallerie is my second preference..the Brilliant is just more, well..brilliant. Forte, Oriental, Seagull, Luminos all have shown occasional blotching, streaking and other quality inconsistencies. One consideration in using VC papers is that current VC papers are much faster than they used to be..and unless you use the correct safelight..not necessarily the standard OC..you will pick up a slight fog which will dull the highlights. VC papers allow the extra capability to filter burn to increase the apparant scale of the print, also. I've tried several different cold lights..but still prefer the basic condenser heads for both my D2 and my Focomat. The prints look sharper

-- C Matter (cmatter@riag.com), February 02, 1999.

For LF printing I like Agfa Portriga the most. I did not succeed in getting satisfying results with this paper from 35mm negatives. I agree with Dick Fish that the paper is not consistent, but if it works out, it works out better than any other paper. It's like they said about old Italian cars: It runs heavenly, *if* it runs. Since I print on it from 4*5, I am getting the best out of it. Depends indeed on your subject too (stills and portraits).

-- Lot Wouda (lotw@wxs.nl), February 02, 1999.

Landscapes- Kodak Polymax Fine Art. Portraits- Ilford MGIV FB Glossy. Warmtone- Ilford Polywarmtone FB Glossy. Lithprints- Sterling lith Paper. Lots more but this is my choice. I use VC papers because I play with the contrast on different parts of the paper. On portraits I like sharp, crisp hair while maintaining soft skin. I blast the hair with a #5 filter while using a #1 on the skin. Landscapes get the same type treatment. Works for me. Graded papers are too restrictive for me, but I print differently and have different tastes that others. And my opinion isn't humble. James

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), April 11, 1999.

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